By Staff Writer Kira Bruce
Fall Rivers Mayor, Jasiel Correia, was charged with bribery and extortion last Friday Sep 6. The city’s youngest mayor took office when he was just 24 years old in 2015. Now 27, he’s out on bail for the second time this year. He stands accused of extorting cannabis vendors in need of a non-opposition letter.
A non-opposition letter is one of the many bureaucratic pieces needed to open a marijuana dispensary. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a piece of paper that says that opening the business is not opposed by the city or town members.
The charges were brought against Correia by federal prosecutors. A 3-year investigation by the FBI found him to be involved with taking bribes on several occasions.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were allegedly taken as bribes from marijuana dispensaries who were looking to open up shop in the area as well as other business owners. He is accused of taking money, as well as marijuana “for resale”, and in one case, a $12,000 Rolex.
Correia is the main person responsible for signing off on non-opposition letters, so in a way it does make sense why the marijuana companies might feel like a bribe to him would be all they need to set up shop.
A FBI Special Agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta who was assigned to the case said this regarding the charges,
“In many ways, it’s a perfect storm of corruption: the combination of a highly competitive industry and a mayor who was solely responsible for approving all non-opposition letters in the city.”
Prior to this week, he was charged with 13 criminal counts of wire fraud and tax evasion. This had to do with the company SnoOwl he founded back in 2012.
During the SnoOwl trial he was accused of misleading investors and diverting funds from the company into his own personal bank account. Correia said that these accusations were politically motivated.
His claim of the charges against him being brought as an attempt to hurt his political career could be plausible. Yet, after the two arrests, I don’t think he can put the blame on anyone else.
Since he refused to resign after the SnoOwl controversy the city held a recall election.
In March he was voted out of office, while simultaneously being re-elected. His name was on the ballot for recall, as well as a candidate for the position of Mayor.
He won 35 percent of votes which was the majority out of 5 candidates. So, even though people voted to recall him, he still won by plurality.
Amongst all of this Correia also stands accused of taking half of his chief of staff’s salary and any bonuses she received. His chief of staff Genoveva Andrade was arrested with Correia in connection to the extortion. She was quoted as saying this about him,
“You want to hear something even more f***ed up… I have to give [Correia] half of my salary”
He returned to his office Monday after paying $25,000 for bail. Tuesday the city council voted to oust him citing, incapacitation as their reason for removal.
This action from a legal stand point is pretty shady. But, since he refused to step down from his position the city council decided it would be the best move for his constituents.
The election is Sep. 17 and as of now will have Correia’s name on the ballot.
I think the popular majority system of election is working against the well being of Fall River. If people are still voting for him after all of this, I wonder why they’re doing it. Perhaps they are uninformed about the situation.
People who are planning on voting against him might feel like it’s a waste of effort after what happened on the ballot in March.
This kind of corruption needs to be weeded out.
He promised to help the economy during his campaign and allowing the marijuana industry to contribute is a step in the right direction.
But, if his way of getting the dispensaries into the town results in them having to give up their licenses he’s not helping but hurting the economy of Fall River.